The 2019 Celebration Bowl will be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. This year the game will feature the Alcorn State Braves and the North Carolina A&T Aggies. The Celebration Bowl started in 2015 and North Carolina A&T has won three of the four. The Aggies beat the Braves in the first Celebration Bowl in 2015, 41-34. This will be a rematch of last year’s Celebration Bowl as well with Alcorn State looking to avenge a 24-22 loss to the Aggies. Another interesting fact about this bowl game is that it will decide the champion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Finally, the Celebration Bowl is the lone bowl game featuring FCS opponents.
Three Things to Look for: 2019 Celebration Bowl
1. Bounce Back for Alcorn State Quarterback
Alcorn State quarterback, Felix Harper, was named Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) offensive player of the year. However, the five-foot-eleven redshirt junior threw two interceptions in the SWAC championship game against Southern. This took Harper’s interception total on the year up to seven. Seven is not high in relation to his passing touchdown total, which is 30. Entering the 2019 Celebration Bowl, Harper has a 60.7% completion rate, he has thrown for 2,613 yards, and rushed for four additional touchdowns. Overall, the redshirt junior has had a great year and will look to get beyond his two-interception showing against Southern and lead Alcorn State to a victory in the rematch of last year’s Celebration Bowl.
2. Two Top-Rated Defenses
While the quarterbacks get a lot of attention for both of these teams, the defenses are strong as well. Alcorn State has 31 turnovers on the year and leads the SWAC in both scoring defense and total defense. They utilize a 4-2-5 defensive scheme. Further, Braves defensive back, Qwynnterrio Cole, and linebacker, Solomon Muhammad, each has four interceptions on the season. Cole and Muhammad both garnered All-SWAC honors.
The Aggies have 13 turnovers so far in 2019. In addition, they have boasted two shutouts this season while relying on a young defense. North Carolina A&T has the third-best scoring defense in the country, allowing just 270.4 yards per game. The young defense is anchored by two sophomores and one freshman at linebacker. Kyin Howard, Joseph Stuckey, and Jacob Roberts have three interceptions between them and two fumble recoveries.
Look for both defenses to play strong and keep each team in the contest. A hard-fought defensive game will be needed on both sides to keep these high-scoring offenses in check.
3. Aggies Running Back Jah-Maine Martin
Jah-Maine Martin has been one of the most efficient backs this season with 1,136 rushing yards. He averages over eight yards per carry and has 22 touchdowns on the season. His 19th touchdown broke a previous record at A&T held by Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen. The redshirt junior transferred from Coastal Carolina after the 2016 season and made an immediate impact in his first season on the field for the Aggies in 2018.
He was awarded to the All-Conference team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). He is also a finalist for the Black College Football Player of the year. Additionally, he was on the Walter Payton Award Watch List. The Braves will have their work cut out for them defending Martin. It will be interesting to see their gameplan to limit the redshirt junior’s yards on Saturday.
Celebration Bowl: What’s What
What: Celebration Bowl
Who: Alcorn State vs. North Carolin A&T
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium Atlanta, Georgia
When: Saturday, December 21st, 12:00 pm ET
Everyone is predicting a close game on Saturday and I am not expecting anything different. These teams are familiar with each other. They played in this same bowl game against each other last year and the final score was 24-22. Both defenses have been strong all year and the quarterbacks have plenty of weapons to utilize. Look for a relatively low scoring game and whoever has the ball the most in the fourth quarter will likely come out with the win.